Right-wing opponents of a Palestinian state are harming Israel’s chances of applying sovereignty to the settlements in Judea and Samaria, Efrat Council head Oded Revivi told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
Revivi spoke out as three major settler leaders were in the midst of a public campaign to sway Derech Eretz parliamentarians Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel to help Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu form a right-wing government.
If Netanyahu had their support, he could form a 61-member right-wing government. There would then be no need for Netanyahu to form a unity government with Blue and White Party head Benny Gantz.
At issue is whether the government that will be formed could support US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, to which Netanyahu has already pledged allegiance. The plan, which was unveiled in January, allows Israel to apply sovereignty to 30% of the West Bank. This would include all the settlements, as well as the Jordan Valley and the Northern Dead Sea regions of hte West Bank.
But to do so, Israel must also accept a demilitarized Palestinian state on the remainder of the West Bank. For the last decade Netanyahu has said he would support a demilitarized Palestinian state.
It’s a step that the Yamina party, led by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett has opposed. Many settler leaders have also opposed it, including Yesha Council head and Jordan Valley Regional Council head David Elhayani, who has led the lobby efforts to sway Hauser and Hendel to join a right-wing government.
A right-wing government would be unlikely to approve all parts of the Trump peace plan, while its presumed that a unity government with Blue and White Party head Benny Gantz would be more likely to do so.
“There are a few people in the right, who think they can promote sovereignty without accepting all the parts of the Trump deal,” said Revivi, who is the Yesha’s foreign envoy. He was among a small delegation of settler leaders who were in Washington when the Trump plan was published.
“Trump is not going to allow one thing happening [sovereignty] without the other thing happening [a Palestinian state],” Revivi said.
He explained that he believed Israel could the Trump peace plan in full, including the part regarding a demilitarized Palestinian state, because the Palestinian refusal to do so, would prevent that state from coming to fruition.
“Everyone understood that we are not necessarily going to reach a stage of a Palestinian state. But the Americans wanted to hear a yes, without saying a no. And some people in the right can't say yes, without saying no, which put the whole Trump deal from day one in some kind of a bind regarding the right-wing,” Revivi said.
Based on his understanding, the Revivi said, the US believes that if Netanyahu fails to form a government and Israel goes to a fourth election, then it would be impossible to push ahead with sovereignty prior to the US elections in November.
The Trump administration is “not saying what type of government there should be. They are not getting involved in internal Israeli politics,” Revivi said.
However, he said, he understand that the US was “interested in a unity government” because it did not want right-wing members of the Knesset to have a veto over parts of the plan.
Netanyahu is under pressure from the right-wing to annex all the West Bank settlements separate from the Trump peace plan. The Trump administration has said that Israel can annex 30% of the West Bank only once a joint US-Israeli mapping process has been completed.
Revivi said that Netanyahu can only move forward on sovereignty if the US gives him the green-light.
“I don't believe there is an Israeli Prime Minister that can go through with sovereignty without the US administration agreeing to it,” Revivi said. If sovereignty moves forward Israel would need US backing in the international arena, particularly at the UN Security Council where the the US has veto power, he explained.
It’s important for Israel to remember that what is at stake here “is not just what we want to achieve,” Revivi said. “We have to understand that there are other players on the board.”